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7 Things We Learned From Living With Dissociative Identity Disorder


The Zen teacher Ezra Bayda once said, “When you really pay attention, everything is your teacher.” Living with dissociative identity disorder (DID) has definitely taught us a lot. Reading this, you might think most of the lessons have been bad, but in fact, many of them have been great lessons. They’ve been hard, yes, and learning them has challenged us as a system, but learning these lessons helped us grow, change and expand our ideas of what is possible when living with this condition.

Here are seven things we’re glad we learned from living with DID:

1. Loving who we are is key to a happy life.

Our life isn’t perfect (whose is?), but it is happy. Take a time machine back five years, and it absolutely wasn’t. Our internal communications weren’t as good, and our teamwork was definitely not what it is now. We spent a lot of time wishing we weren’t multiple. It was only when we made the decision to love and appreciate who we are now that our life started changing for the better. Life is short and this is the one we’ve been given. So we’re trying to make the best of it and love who we are instead of spending our energy on wishing it were different.

2. The only moment is now.

Having DID means our memories can be pretty shaky from moment to moment. I can tell you what I did this morning, but another headmate was fronting yesterday, so I have no idea what we did then. We leave each other notes of the important information, but general details often get lost. This has taught us to live in the moment and love what is happening right now. Doing this has helped us feel much more calm.

3. Our history does not define us.

History is complicated with DID. Sure, we have a collective history that we’re all aware of, in theory. But at any given moment, the current headmate at the front might not remember or relate to our history. For a long time, this really upset us. How could we be valid if half the time we didn’t know who we were? Finally we realized that our history is just one part of who we are. Our strengths and skills and interests and beliefs and values offer a much better definition.

4. True friends love unconditionally.

When we first started telling people about our DID, we were terrified. What if they rejected us? What if they thought it was like the movie, “Psycho” and that we were going to snap and kill them? Honestly, we have lost some friends. People who’ve loved us for years have suddenly decided we can’t be trusted based on the new information they just learned. But true friends stick with us and accept us — all of us — as we are. Those people are worth their weight in gold.

5. We can’t let others’ opinions take hold.

If we had listened to other people’s opinions, we wouldn’t be in the good place we’re in today. From Hollywood telling us we’re dangerous to a therapist telling us we couldn’t be trusted with even basic things like keeping an appointment, the messages we’ve been given about DID have been far from positive. We only learned to live happily with our condition when we stopped listening to others’ opinions and started forming our own.

6. There’s always another way.

Living with DID is a series of interesting challenges. For example, we recently started doing freelance work from home. At first, we were terrified that we’d miss a deadline, forget to renew our web domain or forget to track our finances. Now we use an online team management software — only the team is us! We’ve got everyone into the habit of checking it when they front, so nothing gets missed. DID has taught us that we’re more resourceful than we imagined.

7. There’s always hope.

Living with DID has been really hard at times. Flashbacks, anxiety attacks and amnesia between headmates are no picnic. But living through the hard times and finding ways to get to the good times has taught us there’s always hope, even when life seems impossibly bleak. If someone had told us five years ago that one day we’d be writing an article saying, “Yeah, we got through the hard times in one piece,” we wouldn’t have believed them. Now we’re wondering how much further we can go.

To everyone reading this, whether you have DID or not, we want you to know one thing: It really can get better, and you are so much stronger than you know.

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Thinkstock photo via AnkDesign.